Not only are the Missouri Tigers headed to Atlanta to play in their first SEC championship game, but their head coach is making sure people know where his heart belongs.
On Thursday, Gary Pinkel told "Mike & Mike" on ESPN Radio that he's staying put at Missouri and shrugged off speculation surrounding his possible return to Washington as the Huskies' head coach.
"I coached there [Washington] for 12 years, and Don James is my mentor," Pinkel said. "I'll be quite frank: I'm staying at the University of Missouri. I, with the administration's help, will continue to build a national program in a quest for a national championship.
"I'm a Missouri Tiger, and I'm going to stay a Missouri Tiger."
Shortly after Washington coach Steve Sarkisian left for USC, rumors began about Washington being interested in Pinkel, who was Washington's tight ends coach in 1976 and returned to be an assistant from 1979 to 1990. But Pinkel, who has been at Missouri since 2001, made it clear that he isn't interested in another job. He's happy in Columbia, Mo., and he's looking to build on a great 2013 season.
It isn't shocking that Pinkel's name has been mentioned with Washington. He got his coaching start there and his 11-win season -- coupled with a trip to Atlanta -- looks very attractive to a school with a coaching vacancy. Plus, he's won a lot of games at Missouri.
Heading into Saturday, Pinkel is 101-62 at Mizzou. He's tied with Don Faurot for the most victories in school history and is on the cusp of a BCS berth in the Tigers' second season in the SEC.
Remember when he was considered to be on the hot seat entering the 2013 season after a 5-2 SEC debut in 2012? Oh, what a year can do in the sporting world.
This is very good news for Mizzou. For as frustrating as last season was for the Mizzou faithful, getting a statement like this from Pinkel is a blessing for the program. Pinkel never lost confidence or faith in his team, and it paid off. The Tigers improved by six wins and could be playing for the national championship next month.
Before last season, Pinkel directed Mizzou to seven straight bowl games and hadn't had a losing season since 2004. A rash of injuries on the offensive side of the ball put a halt to the Tigers' bowl run in 2012, but a year later, Mizzou secured its postseason spot midway into October.
Mizzou sits at No. 5 in the BCS standings and has an offense that is averaging a little under 500 yards a game and scoring 38 points a contest. With all the senior leadership, talent and coaching, this isn't a fluke. This is a good team with a good head coach.
Now, that good head coach is staying.